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Euthanasia Pros and Cons Essay

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What are the pros and cons of euthanasia for terminally ill people being legal?

In this assignment, I will explore arguments for and against the legalization of euthanasia and physician-assisted death in the UK. I will use case studies and present the arguments using detailed research. Euthanasia is the act of knowingly ending the life of a person, deliberately with the intent of ending lifelong suffering. The term, according to Michael Manning (1998) “originally meant only ”good death’ meaning euthanasia was a humane way of ending a person’s suffering. The Oxford dictionary agrees with Manning (1998) and describes euthanasia as a ‘gentle and easy death.

When living with an incurable disease such as terminal cancer, patients in the UK are not given the choice to be able to end their lives rather than die a terrible death with suffering and pain. Vulnerable people whereby medicine cannot help in curing their disease are forced to live through suffering and pain until the day they die. All human life has the right to freedom of choice; humans can choose their wedding dress, what they want for dinner and whether they wish to have children in the future; women are given the choice to have double mastectomies should they carry the BRCA Gene mutations, thus meaning they are having the choice to lose a big part of their body and; men have the choice to have a vasectomy, thus potentially ending their chances of ever producing more human life. Michael Irwin (2013) agrees that humans should have the right to choose when to terminate their life if faced with an inevitable death due to lifelong illnesses and believes the law should change to help these people in such instances. Legalizing euthanasia will permit doctors to write prescriptions for the patient to enable them to pass through a humane, quick, and pain-free death. Marcia Angell (2013) makes a remarkably interesting argument where she believes that when faced with a terminally ill patient, the focus of the clinician should change from healing the patient’s illness as there is no cure, to relieving the patient’s suffering instead. However, she also explains how no clinician should be forced to request euthanasia, as should the patient not be forced into making such a decision; this must be decided by both clinician and patient.

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Many people in the UK resort to slowly starving themselves to death, as explained by Paul Lamb (2020). Paul was a man having been paralyzed from the neck down due to a car accident in 1990 had applied for the ‘right-to-die case’ in 2014 and lost his case. He believes the courts have condemned his life to one of never-ending pain and explains how not legalizing euthanasia in the UK takes away the last bit of his freedom of choice – how he wishes to die, with dignity and no suffering. Another campaigner living with lifelong illnesses who also wants to legalize euthanasia is Noel Conway (2021). Noel suffered from motor neuron disease and only had slight movement in one hand, his head, and some of his neck. His case was one of the highest-profile cases to attempt to make a change in the law of euthanasia in the UK. His case was denied, and he was left with one only option to enable him to die with dignity; ‘effective suffocation’. Noel died after removing his ventilator, seeing this as his only option. Campaigners like Lamb (2020) and Conway (2021) have been campaigning for the legalization of euthanasia in agreement with Irwin (2013) with people having the freedom of choice however, Richard Doerflinger (2017) would argue that campaigners are campaigning for suicide rather than euthanasia or physician-assisted dying. He believes that euthanasia does not end a person’s pain, it simply passes the pain and suffering onto other people who may be seen as living a life that is worthless the slippery slope. He believes that legalizing euthanasia will ultimately undermine the doctors’ willingness to show compassion and aid in the relief of pain in patients. He believes that palliative care is a real help to people with terminally ill conditions. Richard states ‘In states that have legalized assisted suicide: not due to pain (or even fear of future pain), but due to concerns like ‘loss of dignity and ’becoming a burden on others” and argues that clinicians should be making the patient feel privileged and happy they are in a place of care and ensuring they reiterate that they are not a burden, but a joy to care for as long as they may need. Legalizing euthanasia could remove all protection for humans.

Doctors have a role in which they always have the patient’s best interest at heart. They hold a moral compass as well as are regulated by the General Medical Council (GMC). Doctors have the legal obligation to do the best for patients without causing harm but sometimes this can prove difficult. Sometimes doctors must give patients drugs to help ease their pain which would mean the physician is knowingly shortening the patient’s life, such as Morphine. A doctor could be unwilling to part take in euthanasia so they do not jeopardize their professional and moral role however, many doctors would disagree and say that euthanasia of a terminally ill person would, in fact, be humane. Tooley (1995) provides an argument that is in support of legalizing euthanasia and that it is in fact not morally wrong. He provides 11 points as to why it would be morally right to end someone’s life through euthanasia. He says that sometimes it is in the best interest of some patients with an incurable illness to end their life with the help of a physician however, the Doctrine of Double Effect states otherwise, as described by Robert Wheeler. Wheeler explains a case where euthanasia took place by the clinician who was subsequently convicted for the use of the Doctrine of Double effects. The doctrine explains that the double effect is where a clinician uses drugs of a higher dose to help ease the pain but by doing so they are knowingly shortening their life by doing so.

To conclude, there are many arguments for and against legalizing euthanasia for terminally ill people in the UK. I have found there is more evidence leading to the argument, as described in this assignment. Terminally ill people appear to be more pro than clinicians, who worry about the effect it would have on their registration and their moral beliefs. Doctors believe contemporary palliative care should be helping terminally ill people to live their remaining time pain-free and be made to feel like they are worthy of life and not an earlier death. Physicians have a moral belief and a law they abide by to disagree with legalizing euthanasia in the UK, whereas terminally ill patients believe they should have the opportunity to die with dignity and have the choice to do so.

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